Yesterday, I took my children ice skating. I grew up ice skating, my children have been a handfull of times. With wobbly ankles and postures stiff and ready to catch themselves before they fell, they carefully became reacclimated to the mechanics needed to glide over ice on steel blades.
My four-year old daughter was excited, and one of the primary motivators for us to go ice skating. Not surprisingly, she required me to hold her hands the entire time. Though it was exhausting for me to hunch over and hold her up making sure she didn't fall, while at the same time maintaining my balance, I was commited to making her experience enjoyable. Needless to say, it took us quite a while to get around the rink just once. Our time spent there was made up of taking several breaks (several for me on the ice) and a few for her where we would leave the ice and either go to the restroom, get a drink, or play with the toys in the main area.
Every time we got back onto the ice, I noticed she relied less and less on my holding her up. Then I saw a father patiently standing in front of his son, of about the same age as my youngest. The boy shuffled itty bitty movements over the ice slowly making progess. As I watched, I admired the father's patience, and the sense of independence and confidence this man was instilling in his child. After our next break, I decided I was going to try to encourage my daughter to do the same.
As we stepped onto the ice, I praised the progess she made throughout the day and suggested she try skating without my hands. At first she refused, but I persisted, "Just try one baby step to me." She did and then purposefully slipped to her bottom. We continued this scenario around the rink and I found myself saying, "Don't fall down; stay standing. Keep taking baby steps." As I said these words a flash of babies learning to walk went through my mind. As I recalled each of my children learning to walk, I remembered a time when they would take a few steps, then intentionally sit or "fall" down. At once I realized that learning to fall was as much about learning to walk (or skate) as was learning to stand and keep your balance.
Practicing falling is not a bad thing, it is actually a necessary and good practice-- it allows one to learn to fall gracefully and safely, it makes standing less scary because falling is no longer an unknow act, but something you know intimately. When one learns to fall gracefull, the fear of falling becomes less.
I was blown away by this epiphany, and suddenly began to praise her falling down, "Learning to fall down is a good thing, isn't it?" I asked. Her face lit up and she giggled as she slipped to her bottom with her feet splayed out across the ice. And each time she rose again to her feet, I saw her confidence build, and her balance become even better.
After years of being afraid of failing, afraid of falling, I think I learned a great lesson from my youngest daughter: Learning to fall or fail gracefully empowers one to stand and succeed because it removes the unneccesary wasting of energy which is fear. So today, I am welcoming the failures, the fallures, and at the same time, learning to stand a little taller in each moment as I skate into the uncertain future.
Suzette Winona Summers M.A. is a mother, writer, artist, and circler of women following the call of her heart to empower herself, her sisters, and the world. Suzette embraces her purpose of birthing a new world through one breath at a time, one step at a time, walking through fear, disappointments, and difficulties into the light of a new day.